We talked to Jane Jensen, designer and author of the Gabriel Knight series of games and books, about the upcoming 20th Anniversary edition of Sins of the Fathers. The remake, developed by Phoenix Online Studios, is out on October 15th. Read on for Jane’s thoughts about the new version and the adventure game genre.
Writing and directing a videogame must be a different experience than writing a novel. What can you tell us about the process?
I generally start with the story first. I’ll outline and write out the story document, which basically gives the entire plot, locations, characters, and flows like a story. After that is solid, the next step is to take that story and translate it into a game design bible by adding in the interactivity and puzzles, alternate paths, etc. In a game in particular there’s also a huge amount of time spent working with the team, reviewing art, writing dialogue, directing voice-over, playtesting, and so on. A novel is much simpler!
The last 20 years were interesting for the adventure game genre – being declared ‘dead’ only to make a strong comeback in recent years. What’s your take on this development?
I think the market demographics are changing, plus there are new opportunities with the self-publishing indie scene and crowd-funding. I wish I knew where it was headed, for adventure games specifically, but I have no clue.
We’re seen adventure games in many different formats and styles. What are some of your personal favorites?
I still do love the old-school Sierra and Lucas Arts titles. Some of the more recent games I thought were really innovative include Siberia, Heavy Rain, and The Walking Dead.
Sins of the Fathers is fondly remembered because of its compelling story, mystery and intrigue – and has endured as a classic within the genre for 20 years now. How did you determine that the time was right to recreate Sins of the Fathers?
It was really a matter of the opportunity coming up. I first started talking to Activision about doing something with them around the time of our kickstarter in 2012. The idea of doing a 20th anniversary edition of GK1, and having it be one of Pinkerton Road’s first titles, was just perfect. Fortunately, there were some influential producers in house that really wanted to see something done with the Sierra games, and they helped me work it out. So I’m very grateful.
Gabriel Knight is being updated to modern day technology – have you implemented or considered changes in the gameplay dynamics as well?
We’ve changed it in small ways, but I didn’t change the core gameplay. If we get a chance to do GK4 than that’s totally open, so we can do whatever feels right for adventure games now. But with remaking such a well-known title, I felt it was best to stick close to the original.
Telltale found success using an episodic format. Do you think this has changed how gamers view adventure games and will this affect Gabriel Knight?
We’re releasing the GK1 20th Anniversary Edition as a complete game, not episodically but you will be able to buy individual chapters on iPad if you prefer, I think. It’s a format that really works for Telltale. I wouldn’t mind trying it on one of my games at some point.
How do you feel about Activision’s recent announcements regarding Sierra’s comeback?
It’s fantastic! I’m so excited to see the license holder of those Sierra franchises move to do more with them. I hope we get lots of new Sierra brand titles. And I hope I get to work on a few of them.
Our thanks to Jane Jensen – stay tuned as we check out the upcoming 20th anniversary edition of Gabriel Knight!